OPSM - November 2003

Manhunt Impressions

Besides the shocking, desensitizing violence that borders on being pornographic (there's no actual sex, but there is plenty of penetration and spraying of bodily fluids, all viewed from lurid camera angles), Manhunt turns out to be a pretty solid game. While it doesn't approach the genius of the GTA franchise, it certainly isn't as terrible as, say, State of Emergency.

Manhunt can be described as Jean-Claude Van Damme's Hard Target—if it were directed by David Fincher. As James Earl Cash, you are "executed," only to be revived and dumped into the decayed streets of Carcer City by the Director. He's hired gangs to hunt you down, and your task is to stealthily execute each hunter for his amusement. Each grisly execution is displayed as a mini-snuff-film—complete with grainy video and blood splatter on the lens.

The actual gameplay is standard stealth action; Cash can hide in shadows, throw things to distract enemies, and make noise to lure them. Cash also has a radar that shows enemies' locations based on the noise they're making. (To be fair, there's no radar in the "hardcore" difficulty setting.) As an interesting gimmick, Manhunt supports the USB headset. With the headset, the Director's comments are heard only through the earpiece (mimicking Cash's in-game earpiece). Speaking into the mic will make generic noise (there's no voice recognition), so instead of banging walls and throwing bottles, you can yell to attract enemies.

The "Metal Gear Snuff" half of Manhunt is the weaker part of the game. The novelty of sneaking around and executing random thugs wears off early—especially when you find yourself in yet another dilapidated street, sitting in another shadowy corner with the same weapon you've seen the execution animation for repeatedly, waiting for another guy to come your way. Since the A.I. isn't terribly smart, your enemies always fall for that trick. While there are still genuine moments of tension (i.e. getting spotted by three guys at once or seeing a gang member walk right past you), Manhunt starts feeling "uninspired."